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Rafael Peralta
Sgt. Rafael Peralta
Born (1979-04-07)April 7, 1979
Died November 15, 2004(2004-11-15) (aged 25)
Place of birth Mexico City, Mexico
Place of death Killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq
Place of burial Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch USMC
Years of service 2000–2004
Rank Sergeant
Unit 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines
Battles/wars Operation Iraqi Freedom
*Operation Phantom Fury
Awards Navy Cross
Purple Heart

Sergeant Rafael Peralta (April 7, 1979 – November 15, 2004), assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was a United States Marine killed in combat during Second Battle of Fallujah in the city of Fallujah, Iraq. In September 2008, his family was notified that he was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest award a United States Marine can receive.[1]

Personal historyEdit

Rafael Peralta was born on April 7, 1979 in Mexico City. Son of Rafael and Rosa Peralta, the oldest of four, with siblings Icelda, Karen and Ricardo, he immigrated to the United States, graduated from Morse High School in 1997, and joined the United States Marine Corps as soon as he had a green card in 2000.[2] He later became an American citizen while serving in the Marine Corps.[3]

According to accounts, Peralta served the United States with enthusiasm and patriotism: "In his parent's home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items - a copy of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he wrote to his 14-year old brother, 'be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American.'"[4]

Killed in actionEdit

On November 15, 2004, 25 year old Sgt. Peralta, deployed to Iraq as a scout team leader assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, along with his team was ordered to clear houses in the Operation Phantom Fury. Peralta was not assigned to enter the buildings, but chose to do so anyway.[5]

Sergeant Peralta led his team through a series of house clearings before charging into the fourth house. He found two rooms empty on the ground floor. Peralta opened a third door and was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire, leaving him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.[6] The insurgents responded by throwing a grenade at the Marines. The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.[6][7]

Sgt. Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.[8]

Posthumous awardEdit

In December 2004, U.S. Congressman Bob Filner of California introduced legislation to award Sgt. Peralta the Medal of Honor.[9] As of January 22, 2008, a Medal of Honor award for Sgt. Peralta was awaiting presidential approval.[10]

On September 17, 2008, Rafael Peralta's family was notified by LtGen. Richard Natonski that he would not receive the Medal of Honor, but the Navy Cross instead, the service's second highest award for valor. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates rejected the Marine Corps' recommendation, concluding that his appointed panel unanimously confirmed that his actions did not meet the standard of "without any possibility of error or doubt". The central argument posed relates to whether the already mortally-wounded Peralta could have intentionally reached for the grenade, shielding his fellow Marines from the blast. In a Marine Corps investigation of the attack, Natonski said, "I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the gravely wounded Peralta covered the grenade.[11] The doubt arose due to some believe that Peralta was clinically dead when the insurgents threw the grenade.[12][13]

Since the announcement that Peralta would receive the Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor, numerous groups and individuals have spoken out in support of the Medal of Honor for Peralta.[14][15] The Congressional delegations from California and Hawaii, as well as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have requested a Presidential review of Gates' decision against a Medal of Honor award.[16][17] Although calls to elevate the award have not been acted on to date, lawmakers have not given up and continue their efforts.[18] Of the seven servicemembers nominations for the Medal of Honor that have reached the Secretary of Defense, Peralta's is the only nomination that has not been approved.[19]

In March 2012, the Marine Corps Times reported that Navy officials were reviewing new evidence related to Peralta's case, including two videos, one being filmed by Marine combat photographer Steve Sebby,[20][21] and a pathology report.[22] This evidence was provided by California Representative Duncan D. Hunter,[23] who served with 1st Battalion, 11th Marines during Operation Vigilant Resolve, the first battle for the city of Fallujah.[24] In December 2012, the Department of Defense announced that the Navy Cross will not be upgraded, with Secretary of Defense Panetta saying he did not want to overturn the decision of Secretary of Defense Gates.[25] In response, Hunter stated he will continue to seek appeals;[26] introducing a resolution, cosponsored by fellow California Representative Xavier Becerra, recommending that Peralta be awarded the Medal of Honor.[27] With Chuck Hagel replacing Panetta as the Secretary of Defense, Hunter said that Hagel maybe more receptive than Panetta was regarding the new evidence.[28]

Awards and honorsEdit

Peralta's awards include:[29]

Navy Cross ribbon.svg Purple Heart BAR.svg
Combat Action Ribbon.svg Marine Corps Good Conduct ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.svg
Navy Cross Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal National Defense Service Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal w/ 1 campaign star Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Navy Cross CitationEdit

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following


For extraordinary heroism while serving as Platoon Guide with 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division, in action against Anti-Coalition Forces in support of Operation AL FAJR, in Fallujah, Iraq on 15 November 2004. Clearing scores of houses in the previous three days, Sergeant Peralta' asked to join an under strength squad and volunteered to stand post the night of 14 November, allowing fellow Marines more time to rest. The following morning, during search and attack operations, while clearing the seventh house of the day, the point man opened a door to a back room and immediately came under intense, close-range automatic weapons fire from multiple insurgents. The squad returned fire, wounding one insurgent. While attempting to maneuver out of the line of fire, Sergeant Peralta was shot and fell mortally wounded. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the insurgents broke contact, throwing a fragmentation grenade as they fled the building. The grenade came to rest near Sergeant Peralta's head. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away. Sergeant Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Sergeant Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.[30]


On April 24, 2006, William Lansdowne, chief of police for the San Diego Police Department posthumously awarded Sgt. Peralta the honorary title of San Diego police officer for his heroism in Iraq. Peralta had long wanted to be a San Diego police officer. The badge was presented to Rafael's mother, Rosa Peralta.[31]

On September 21, 2007, the 31st MEU Command Post, building 2533 Camp Hansen, Okinawa, was christened Peralta Hall in his honor.[32]

The History Channel created a one-hour documentary on Sgt Peralta, Act of Honor, shown on the THC Classroom.[33] The video is available in both Spanish and English.[34]

Representative Hunter has urged the United States Navy, through legislative action, to name a vessel after Sgt Peralta.[35] Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on February 16, 2012 that the next five Navy ships; three Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers, the USS John Finn (DDG-113),[36][37] the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114),[36][37] and the USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115),[36][37] and two littoral combat ships (LCS), the USS Sioux City and the USS Omaha.[38]

See alsoEdit


  1. Fuentes, Gidget (September 17, 2008). "Peralta to be given Navy Cross posthumously — No Medal of Honor for sergeant hit by ‘friendly fire’". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  2. Rother, Caitlin (November 21, 2004). "Another tragedy for grieving family". San Diego Union Tribune. Union-Tribune Publishing Co.. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
  3. Emilio Gonzalez (22 August 2006). "Citizenship through military service". Retrieved 17 December 2012. "Peralta enlisted the same day he received his green card and earned his citizenship while on active duty." 
  4. North, Oliver (2004-12-16). "Hero in Fallujah: Marine Laid Himself on Top of Grenade to Save Rest of Squad". Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  5. Gordon Trowbridge (20 November 2004). "Marine sacrifices his life for others in grenade blast". Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Oliver North (16 December 2004). "HERO IN FALLUJAH: Marine Laid Himself on Top of Grenade to Save Rest of Squad". HUMAN EVENTS. Eagle Publishing, Inc.. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  7. Ephron, Dan (February 11, 2008). "Where's the Respect?". 
  8. Kathrine Zoepf (27 May 2010). "What Happened to Valor?". Retrieved 15 March 2012. "Peralta is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego." 
  9. Filner, Bob (January 2005). "A Salute to An American Patriot: Sgt. Rafael Peralta". Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  10. Cole, William (January 22, 2008). "Marine may finally get Medal of Honor". The Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  11. Zoroya, Gregg (September 17, 2008). "No Medal of Honor for Kaneohe Marine". Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  12. Julian E. Barnes (12 July 2011). "White House Considers Another Nominee for the Medal of Honor". Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  13. Tony Perry (15 October 2008). "IRAQ: No change for Sgt. Peralta, Navy secretary says". Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  14. Fuentes, Gidget (October 5, 2008). "Former Marine protests Peralta MoH denial". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  15. Lamothe, Dan (September 30, 2008). "Honor or insult for a fallen Marine? Marine who smothered grenade deserved Medal of Honor, family says, but he got the Navy Cross". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  16. Fuentes, Gidget (September 23, 2008). "Lawmakers ask Bush to review Peralta award: Seek highest honor for Marine". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  17. Cole, William (October 1, 2008). "More members of Congress ask for Peralta review" (Republished in the Marine Corps Times). The Honolulu Advertiser. 
  18. Freking, Kevin (August 2, 2009). "Lawmaker questions low Medal of Honor count". Associated Press. Retrieved August 4, 2009. "It's unclear exactly how many soldiers have been nominated for the award from the two wars. But, seven have made it all the way to the secretary of defense, and six were approved. The exception is Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego, Calif. Hunter said the Peralta case shows that a higher standard is being used for the medal than in previous wars." 
  19. Gretel C. Kovach (15 March 2012). "Video evidence submitted in Peralta medal push". Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  20. Stephen Dinan (12 December 2012). "Top medal denied twice to Marine". Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  21. Cavallaro, Gina (March 20, 2012). "Navy reopens Marine Corps Medal of Honor case". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  22. John Wilkens (16 November 2012). "Medal of Honor Review Expected to Finish Soon". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  23. Scott Horsley (18 April 2007). "Military Call Disrupts Hunters' House Plans". Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  24. John Wilkens (12 December 2012). "Hunter: No Medal of Honor for Peralta". Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  25. Duncan Hunter (16 December 2012). "Peralta Deserves Medal of Honor for Heroism". Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  26. Mark Walker (16 January 2013). "Lawmaker won't leave Peralta behind: Rep. Duncan Hunter won’t quit in quest for Medal of Honor for fallen Marine". Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  27. Dan Lamothe (4 March 2013). "New Medal of Honor push started for Peralta". Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  28. "House Concurrent Resolution 19 HD1". 25th Legislature. Hawaii House of Representatives. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  29. "Navy Cross Citation" (PDF). The Secretary of the Navy. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  30. "San Diego Police Honors Fallen Marine" (PDF). Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. April 28, 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  31. Sadaghiani, Cpl. Kamran and Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke (October 5, 2007). "Hansen building named for 'selfless' Marine". Okinawa Marine. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2008-09-28. [dead link]
  32. "Act of Honor". THC Classroom. The History Channel. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  33. "Act of Honor" (in Spanish). The History Channel. 
  34. Gary Robbins (8 December 2011). "Naming of warships causing dissent in Congress". Retrieved 22 December 2011. 
  35. 36.0 36.1 36.2 "Navy To Name Ships After Servicemen With Local Ties". 15 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  36. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Tony Perry (15 February 2012). "Navy to name ships after three San Diego war heroes". Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  37. "Navy Names Five New Ships". Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). United States Department of Defense. 15 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 


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